You Are Here FAQ “Can Pugs Swim?”

Can Pugs Swim? [With Photos & Video]

Can pugs swim? 🤔

Many dogs may be natural swimmers, but pugs are not.

Consider this: a dog’s ability to swim is based on several factors, most of which, in a pug, work against it.

We’ll look at these disadvantages in greater detail later in the article, but weaknesses to swimming in pugs include:

  • Position in water—pugs are brachycephalic, which forces them to stick their heads up and their butts down in the water to breathe . . . which in turn makes them sink
  • Difficulty breathing—even if they can keep their shortened muzzles above water, their restricted breathing passages leave them quickly out of breath
  • Body shape—pugs have dense bodies which require greater exertion to keep them afloat
  • Paw webbing—unlike other dog breeds bred to be in the water, pugs do not have webbing between their paws to make swimming easier
  • Leg length—a pug’s short legs are not designed to displace water and prevent sinking

Pugs may not be natural swimmers, but especially if they enjoy the water, you may be able to teach them how to do it, anyway.

Biological Reasons as to Why Pugs Can’t Swim Well

Brachycephalic Dog Airway illustration

The biggest challenge a pug needs to overcome to swim successfully is its brachycephalic face[1].

Brachycephaly is defined by short, broad skulls. Pugs are one of the best-known brachycephalic breeds, having been bred over hundreds of years to achieve the signature squashed appearance of their heads.

As cute as they may look, the brachycephaly causes the pug several problems, including with regards to swimming.

To keep their flat mouth and noses above water, pugs must throw their heads back while swimming, which also drops their rear ends.

Not being able to balance their bodies in the water makes them sink like stones.

In addition to giving them a posture in the water that is almost impossible to keep afloat, brachycephaly by its very nature comes with a host of other breathing problems.

Pugs are prone to snorting and wheezing even while resting; the exertion of swimming may leave one dangerously out of breath.

Pugs may be lapdogs, but their barrel-shaped bodies are dense and far from hydrodynamic.

Pugs are also one of the breeds most prone to obesity, and the heavier they get, the more likely they are to sink like stones.

Finally, pug’s legs and feet are not designed for swimming.

The legs are too short of moving through the water effectively, and without the webbing between toes that some other dog breeds have, paddling hard enough to keep afloat takes more energy than it should.

How to Tell If Your Pug Likes the Water

Pug swimming in the beach

Any dog can be trained to behave while in the water, but it’s certainly a much easier task if your pug enjoys it.

Despite their weaknesses when it comes to swimming, some pugs do love playing in the water, so don’t give up hope!

There’s a good chance that you may be able to play on a beach with your pug just like so many other happy dog owners.

On the other hand, your pug may prefer to sunbathe and hunt the beach for snacks and other treasures, refusing even to approach the shoreline.

If your pug is resistant to entering the water, even with you gently cajoling it to join you, it’s probably so naturally averse to swimming that you’ll never get it to really love the act.

The most important thing to do in these situations is to make sure you pay attention to your dog’s body language.

Pugs are an expressive breed; you’ll know pretty easily whether yours enjoys something or hates it.

If you notice extreme anxiety or panic in your pug when it approaches open water, you may want to reconsider your decision to try to teach it to swim.

Can it learn?  Sure.

But if it hates it, is it worth it?

Getting Your Pug Used to the Water

pug swimming in a river

Some pugs genuinely enjoy being in the water despite their difficulties with swimming, but it shouldn’t come as a surprise that just as many would rather avoid it.

Some pug owners, not understanding this natural aversion, will try to get their pugs to swim all at once, but it’s better in these cases to go slow.

You can also do a lot to make a pug more comfortable in the water.  One great idea is to pair your pug with another dog that is a more experienced swimmer.

Having another dog lead by example will show your pug the possibility of success.

Floating toys may also offer your dog reassurance while submerged in a pool.

Toys that are big enough can be used as islands that your pug can swim to and use to rest if it finds itself running out of steam and too far away from the pool edges to get to quickly enough.

The most important part of getting a pug used to the water is your support.

As a doggy parent, your pup looks to you for guidance and love. A pug should never be near open water unattended.

The best way to adjust a pug to water is to enter yourself while holding it.  Take your time to let your pug slowly adapt to the novel sensation of being submerged.

If, at any point, it starts to panic, let it back onshore to observe you in the water in from a safe distance.  Once it sees you playing, your pug will want to join in the fun!

Safety First

pug dog with goggles, snorkel and flippers in inflatable pool

Like any new swimmer, a pug going through training on how to swim should be treated with care and vigilance.

Before even thinking about introducing your pug to water, measures should be in place to make sure your pup doesn’t fall in accidentally.

Having a dog fence around your pool should be a no-brainer, but you also need to make sure that there aren’t holes big enough for your pug to slip through.

Small dogs can come with big problems!

Pugs are also good diggers, so if your fence is on top of soft, movable earth, regularly check to make sure your dog hasn’t dug space to crawl through underneath it.

To keep your pup safe, make sure you keep an eye on its energy levels; don’t let it get worn out.

Tired dogs in unsafe and unstable situations quickly turn into scared and panicking dogs.

Let your pug play around and get used to being in the water, but take it out long before exhaustion sets in.

If you’re really invested in your pug being a swimmer, you’ll need to invest in a life jacket.

Watch a Pug Swimming Below: 👇

Pug Swimming For The First Time Video

Teaching a pug how to swim is less about teaching it how to keep itself afloat and more about teaching it how to be comfortable while submerged in water.

At the end of the day, a pug might be able to muster up a passable doggy paddle, but it will never be strong swimmer, and the risk of letting it try to swim without a flotation device is too great.

Life jackets will keep your pug afloat and allow it to swim with confidence.

How to Train Your Pugs to Swim

Teaching a pug to swim

Just because pugs are at a natural disadvantage doesn’t mean they can’t learn how to swim. (image source)

In fact, not only can pugs figure out how to navigate water—they may even come to enjoy it!

When teaching your pug to swim, it’s important to go slow and respect its limits.

Hold it above the water and then slowly lower it into it, butt-first.  Even before it touches the water, your pug will begin to doggy paddle just by instinct.

Continue to raise and lower your pug in and out of the water until it gets used to the idea of using its legs to stay afloat.

Once it has the movement down, your pug may be ready to try swimming on its own—but remember its difficulties.

Even after you’ve trained your pug to be comfortable in the water, it still should always wear a life jacket while swimming to ensure its safety.

Making Swimming Fun

Pug dog with children in an inflatable pool

The best way to get positive results from training your pug to swim is to make every time it’s in the water a positive experience.

For pugs who aren’t fans of the water, this is always going to be a challenge, but some things under your control can make the experience a better one.

First, make sure the body of water is at an optimal temperature.  Whether it’s a pool, a lake, or the ocean, water should be at least 60 degrees Fahrenheit to be comfortable for a pug.

The water should also be completely clear of all obstacles and objects, with the possible exception of floating pool toys that may offer your pug some reprieve if it gets tired.

With a little effort and a little more time, swimming can be a fun experience for you and your pug!

References: 

1.[^]File:Brachycephalic Dog Airway.svg.” File:Brachycephalic Dog Airway.svg – Wikimedia Commons, https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Brachycephalic_Dog_Airway.svg.

About The Author: Jacob Powell is studying Ph.D. in English Literature. He has ten years of experience in writing with specific expertise in proofreading, editing, and creative writing. He loves all animals, but dogs are his favorite. His current dog is a 5-year-old pug called Merlin.

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